Deaglan de Breadun is blogging about the politics of fatherhood, reflecting on the Gate's production of All My Sons, the Arthur Miller classic about a family with a dark secret.
It is difficult to write about the "politics of fatherhood" without referring to the many tens of thousands of "biological" fathers in Ireland who play no role in their children's lives.
According to the last census, there wer almost 190,000 lone parent families, of which nearly 86 per cent were headed by females. The number of families headed lone mothers where all of the children were under 15 has increased by an astonishing 57.6% between 2002 and 2006.
It is not clear what percentage of Irish children are being raised without a father but it is certainly a large percentage and growing rapidly.
Does our system penalise those families with a father figure? It provides a cash incentive - however inadequate - to single parent families which would be lost if the parent begins to cohabit. What incentive is there for the father to fulfill his role?
For earlier generations, the father was the breadwinner and the "head of household".
Their sons especially had to come to terms with a father figure who had to reconcile the needs of his family with the pressures of the outside world. This is never easy but it provides a profound life lesson which children will not learn if they have no father figure and their sustenance, however meagre, derives from State provision instead of personal endeavour. Young men, in particular, must learn this lesson if they are to become fathers.
On a related point, how many childen of property developers will grow up with a sense that their father sabotaged this country, as surely as if they had supplied defective parts to an army fighting to defend us? In years to come, someone will adapt "All My Sons" to a post-Celtic Tiger Ireland in which the father's property speculation is the family's dark secret.